BROTHERS' PACE BUOYS HOME FANS World champion Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) stemmed Williams-BMW/Michelin star Juan Pablo Montoya's run of five straight pole positions when he set the pace during the qualifying session for the German Grand Prix...
BROTHERS' PACE BUOYS HOME FANS
World champion Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) stemmed Williams-BMW/Michelin star Juan Pablo Montoya's run of five straight pole positions when he set the pace during the qualifying session for the German Grand Prix at the revised Hockenheim track. It was the local favourite's first pole position since the Spanish GP in April. His last-gasp 1m 14.389s lap was enough to pip his younger brother Ralf, Montoya's team-mate, by 0.181 seconds.
After completing an all-Schumacher front row for his home race, Ralf said: "So far this weekend everything has been fine for me, although Juan Pablo has been struggling to find a balance. I'm sure we'll both be in very good shape for the race, however." Ferrari number two Rubens Barrichello will line up third ahead of Montoya, who made mistakes on two of his four qualifying runs. He had to spend several minutes in the pits after his first mistake, because his car had to be cleared of grass and dirt after he careered wide entering the stadium section of the track.
Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren-Mercedes, fifth) was third of five Michelin drivers in the top 10, ahead of team-mate David Coulthard, who was eighth, and Jarno Trulli (Renault, ninth). The usual running order in the top half of the field has been shaken up by the improved form of Honda-powered teams BAR and Jordan, who have made the most of the Japanese manufacturer's latest-specification V10. BAR team-mates Olivier Panis and Jacques Villeneuve line up seventh and 11th; their Jordan counterparts Giancarlo Fisichella and Takuma Sato are sixth and 12th.
Jenson Button (Renault, 12th) was quickest of the remaining Michelin runners, from Eddie Irvine (Jaguar, 15th), Allan McNish (Toyota, 16th), Mika Salo (Toyota, 18th), Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar, 20th) and Mark Webber (KL Minardi-Asiatech, 21st). McNish has been plagued by bad luck this season and this is the first time he has outqualified team-mate Salo. Webber's team-mate Alex Yoong failed to lap within 107 per cent of the pole position time and has not qualified for the race. It remains to be seen whether the Malaysian will be given special dispensation to start.
Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier, motorsport director
Michelin is not starting from pole position for the first time in six races, but it is very tight at the top and some of your partner teams are in contention for victory tomorrow...
"I think so. Williams-BMW came very close to getting another pole position and McLaren-Mercedes look to be in good shape. It is also worth pointing out that Juan Pablo Montoya, who has taken pole position for the previous five races, did not show his full potential today."
How difficult has it been adapting to this new track -- and what are its characteristics?
"It has taken a while for us to assemble cohesive data, because at first teams were experimenting with all kinds of configurations and that led to us obtaining widely differing results with the same type of tyre. As the weekend has gone, however, and teams have dialled their cars into the circuit, they have all been getting closer to similar set-ups and that has produced more consistent feedback that is easier to analyse. Generally the track has lots of grip and it is not too abrasive as far as tyres are concerned."
Will your primary (A) and option (B) tyres both be used in the race?
"Yes -- there is about a 50/50 split between the teams. The primary tyre is perhaps a little bit slower over one lap, but it should be more consistent and more durable. The consistency of the option tyre will depend very much on the set-ups that teams choose to run."
Is this likely to be a one- or two-stop race?
"Computer simulations suggest that two stops will be quicker than one, but we still have more data to analyse to be sure about that. Everything is too new at this track for us to be sure."
Michelin teams showed extremely consistent race form last weekend at Magny-Cours. Are you confident you can maintain that this weekend?
"Absolutely. I expect our quickest two teams in qualifying to be very consistent in the race."
Does that mean they are running your harder, primary tyre?
"That is for them to say. I just anticipate that they will be very consistent."